Disclaimer: this blog contains vulnerability and brutal honesty. Be kind to me :)
This is difficult to write for many reasons.
"Why write it then?" you may ask and that's a good question. I've wanted to write about the various vegan diets for a long time, but avoided it because I wasn't sure I wanted to touch the subject. My personal diet has changed, evolved and then devolved a lot over these few years, I've done lots of experimenting and know for sure how much diet can affect my mood and energy levels. But I've also learned how much many people (myself included) can overly obsess about what goes in their mouth and that can be more detrimental than twenty sugar-laden cupcakes :)
Recently TWO very well-established vegan celebrity chefs came out as going back to an omnivore diet. One of which, was a hard-core raw foodist. Obviously I feel sad when I see this, but I don’t judge them in the slightest. I only feel fear because I worry: is there a flaw in this diet? Where did they go "wrong"? How can I prevent this?
I don’t want to be someone who blindly defends a cause, regardless of its actual merit. And I certinely don’t want to promote something that’s going to give someone problems!
My personal journey was 100% based on ethics. I researched everything to do with animal agriculture, from the most gruesome factory farms, to the quaintest family farms and I didn’t feel good about any of it. Then: following that with all the health research, I was very confident that I wouldn’t need to worry about anything. The China Study shows how detrimental animal products are for us and presents the science to support every argument. When you break down animal products into what they ACTUALLY do for our bodies - the negatives outweigh the positives. I know that steak can give me iron, but it also increases my risk of heart disease….that kinda thing. :)
In an effort to avoid "unhealthy vegans" (including me!) we have to acknowledge that there are LOTS of vegan diets. "Vegan" is not a diet, in my opinion - it is a lifestyle. However - diet does certainly come into it and it's easy to mess up diets! So, this blog is dedicated to a breakdown of some of the various ways to eat "vegan" and may help explain why some vegans look like goddesses and others look like crap.
Please remember that I am NO expert, this is all based on research and personal experiences. And - let's be honest - there's a little bias in there ;) I go with my gut. On everything. And that is what you should do. As the Skinny Bitches say: "USE YOUR HEAD!" Always do what feels right to you and what SOUNDS right. Listen to all the information and if something doesn't sit right - trust that feeling. But then, don't just discard it straight away, research, look into it and see if you still have the heeby-geebies.
Okay - here we are - SOME of the vegan diets::::
The Processed Replacer!
A technical name, obviously. This is the vegan that I never was, but would occasionally dabble in when first starting out. This diet involves a high quantity of fake meats, cheeses and processed soy products. When starting out, it's easy to replace your chicken kiev with a "Cheatin' Chicken Kiev" and think that you're nailing it, but I would NOT recommend these products as a staple in anyone's diet. Processed fake vegan meats and cheeses should be reserved for converting people, satisfying a specific craving (dying for a sausage) or if you go to a fun vegan restaurant. I wouldn't recommend eating fake meat every day..... If it's made in a factory by man and you can't pronounce the stuff on the label - don't eat it.
The Skinny Bitch approach
This one I like to call: the Holy Grail of mental sanity, social acceptance, looking good and feeling good. The Skinny Bitch approach is healthy, their fundamentals will keep you looking bangin' till a ripe old age and it allows for vegan cupcakes, burgers and all sorts of goodies (done the "Skinny Bitch" way!)
The basics are: fresh fruit for breakfast, giant salad for lunch and then a dinner of vegan amazingness (like a bean patty with home-made chips or a spelt pasta with pesto....that kinda thing.) Then treats if you really want them. But the treats are always as healthy as possible. For example: recipes always include agave syrup, maple syrup or stevia instead of sugar and they will cook with grape-seed or coconut oil instead of olive oil. Olive oil should be used cold :)
I have to say - this is probably the closest to what my diet currently is. I don't think that much about what I eat, but having a simple list of what I want to avoid (i.e - white, processed carbohydrates, simple sugar, scary ingredients) makes it much easier to eat out with friends and not obsess too much. This diet does include oats, dairy-free milks, pulses and tofu!
The Crazy Sexy Diet - A Healer
I came across Kris Carr's book at a perfect time in my vegan health journey. I wanted to be crazy healthy, was open to experimentation and had a relatively free-shedule to do all sorts of things with a juicer. This diet is for people (I BELIEVE) who need to heal. It's a supremely "clean" diet, mostly raw, with a high emphasis on alkalising green juices and smoothies. The basics of Kris Carr's aproach is following an 80% alkaline diet and having only 20% acidic foods. You know what that means.....No meat, dairy, alcohol, ciggies, coffee, gluten or sugar! Instead you feast on fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and seeds! That of course, is a typical vegan diet, but this one differs in what Kris Carr emphasises. She wants high levels of greens, low levels of very sugary fruits and allows for high "fat", as in: avocados and oils. The good thing about this diet as apposed to some of the ones to follow, is that you can have gluten free breads and pastas, which helped me a lot. I loved having some gluten free toast with tahini and tomato as an afternoon snack. Also - it means you can eat out! Most places have gluten free options or salads that would fit in the guidelines of the CSD. This lifestyle will only work for you if you own a juicer and blender :) FYI - green drinks are delicious.
The McDougall/Campbell/Barnard Diet
John McDougall! The king of "plant based diets", Colin T Campbell - The China Study anyone? And sexy Neal Barnard, our favourite MD who represents vegan health to the world. I highly recommend this diet! These men specialise in reversing diabetes with the power of whole foods. The only real difference between this diet and the ones to follow, is that these guys are not scared of potatoes, pulses, oils and cooking. Oil, I'm on the fence about, but I love my potatoes! If you want to follow this kind of diet - all you need to do is focus on "whole foods". It's a lovely, abundant and non-fussy way of eating. It's also supremely logical, which I love and they have a fark-loud of science behind them. The basics? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds! Yep! Sound familiar? EAT YA VEGGIES!
The Standard "Raw" Diet
Okay....it may or may not blow your mind to know that there are actually different raw food diets. ISN'T RAW JUST ONE THING?! God, no. There are so many raw food worlds and experts and madness out there (who sometimes battle with each other and that is damn entertaining!)
So, the most obvious way to eat raw is: "is it raw? I'll eat it! Is it cooked? F*** off!"
Now, this black-and-white approach will undoubtedly improve the health of your average go, BUT there are potential issues going at it so simply. For example - nowadays, there are raw food snack bars for sale in a lot of shops! They are technically "raw". But should you live on these bars? I would say not.
These is where newbies can run into problems. And, hey, even long-term raw foodists run into pitfalls too!
All the gurus disagree about what causes this and they are all passionate about their position, which makes it confusing. So, let's break it down.
The place that they all seem to disagree is - Fat! Some emphasis high fat, some emphasise low fat. If you're going to be a raw foodist, you just need to decide which camp you fall into. One side eat a high level of nuts, avocados etc (fat) while the other camp are more focused on the diet below.
What it comes down to is: calories. If you want to do a raw food diet you HAVE TO EAT ENOUGH CALORIES. The raw foods that are the highest in calories are fruits or fat. Therefore: are you going to be a high fat raw foodist or a high fruit raw foodist? Raw veggies are crazy low in calories, which is great because you can eat a crap load of veggies, but you need to get your calories from somewhere. (If you're dying to know my recommendation, don't worry, it's coming!)
I also want to insert here that the famous raw foodist I talked about earlier (who now eats meat) - followed the high-fat "gourmet" raw diet. Meaning - lots of fancy meals, raw desserts and things like that. These meals are delicious (see my pictures below from a divine raw foods restaurant) but are very high in fat. And sometimes you do need to ask - if I'm going raw and trying to eat from nature - would this exist in nature? (cough: OLIVE OIL! Cough: raw brownies?! Cough: raw chia porridge? Cough: raw COFFEE?!) Like I say: delicious, and definitely a nice treat....but perhaps not as a staple?
The 80 - 10 - 10 Diet
**Insert Hallelujah music** If you've read my blog before - you may know about my experience on 80 10 10. This is a diet I've been aware of for YEARS now and was always desperate to try it out. I made lots of excuses for not jumping in, mostly because I was very social it's pretty much impossible to do if you are eating out in New York every day (like I was.) So, once I moved to the UK, was living alone and in control of my own food: I finally got to commit. And....I loved it. I felt fantastic, beyond fantastic and really hope that one day I'll feel motivated to do it again. At the moment, I'm pretty happy living the "Skinny Bitch" way, so that I can grab food out occasionally and live a bit cheaper, but in terms of mental clarity and energy - the 80 10 10 diet won for me, hands down.
This diet involves mono-mealing on fruit throughout the day (picking one fruit and just eating as much of it as you like until you're satisfied) and then having a giant salad for dinner. The salad can have as many greens, veggies and fruits as you like. The best part of this diet is that there is ZERO restrictions on portion size, calories or fruits and veggies. That in itself may sound restrictive to a lot of people, but once you commit to it, you kind of feel like you've found the Holy Grail raw lifestyle. I slept like a baby, skin was good, my body felt "clean". It was just brilliant. Of course though - nearly impossible socially and was a little expensive. Read my blog about the diet for more info or check out www.30bananasaday.com
So, hopefully that's answered some questions and not made anyone even MORE confused. Do what feels right for you and, again, as the SBs say "USE YOUR HEAD!" You are the best judge of what works for you and how you feel good. But, if you're not feeling great, try some experimentation? First thing I would suggest is to try cutting something out, like gluten or processed food? Or, if you don't like the idea of cutting stuff out, then just add in more fresh fruit? Or more raw vegetables? Go to the Forks over Knives website and get some incredible salad plant happy recipes!
I'm in a place now where diet isn't something I think about too consciously. I feel fantastic, have not been to the doctor in over two years, have energy busting out of my fingertips and a passion for everything I do. I do not restrict my food, I eat when I'm hungry and....yes...I do have indulgences. My soy coffees help me feel sane sometimes. Just going and sitting in a cafe is enough to make me feel like a normal person, and that is really important to me.
To wrap up - here is a fantastic video from one of my favourite raw foodists: Megan Elizabeth. She explains things beautifully and FYI: is on 80 10 10.
Happy Health everyone!
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